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Media is revolutionizing science in all its forms, from patient access to information, to technologies doctors use to diagnose and treat, to how science research brings solutions to global health problems. The JUST Science Section discusses the various ways media drives scientific advances and affects social change.

Karina Saravia
Lisa MattsonMarisa Co

 

 

 

 

 

Kay BaldwinDoug Fleischli

Science

Monday
Dec302013

Multisensory Learning and Perceptual Immersion in the 21st Century 

Karina Saravia
December, 2013 

Image Source: "Searching for the Mind", Dr. Jon Lieff's BlogIn a world inundated with excess stimuli, appealing to the senses can affectively, and therefore, effectively recruit attention. It is the essence of communication. In order to learn what we learn we must first pay attention to the stimuli that provides the said stimulation. 

Media, design and aesthetics are nearly as important as the actual information being transmitted. Learning environments (e.g., schools, universities, conferences, workshops) draw in multiple senses and facilitate the learning process by using images, audio clips, videos, and interactive learning software and web applications to supplement text. Instructive video games, activate the visual, auditory, and tactile senses and have been linked to higher rates of learning and neuroplasticity. This stimulating perceptual environment engages the audience and immerses them in the subject matter. In the words of Diana Slattery, "…immersion is primarily a quality of consciousness that has to do with the capture and control of attention, a necessary condition for any interpersonal persuasion, education, or entertainment to occur." Immersion is powerful.  

Modern tools and dynamic multimedia avenues are being used to yield public interest and understanding within academic settings and beyond. By way of social media and mobile devices, memes and viral videos are undeniably seducing the senses by making information more salient. Pintrest and Instagram use images to guide people through D.I.Y. projects and food recipes. With Youtube, people can learn dance and exercise routines, how to solve math problems, and even how to play instruments. The amount of “likes” and “shares” attest to the influence of these mediums. They must be used constructively to bring forth a more conscientious society. 

Thursday
Dec122013

Computer Chips in Your Brain

Futurescape, November 2013

Thursday
Dec122013

What Is So Special About the Human Brain?

Suzana Herculano-Houzel 
TEDGlobal, November 2013

Friday
Nov292013

Funding Scientific Literacy to Drive Social Change

Karina Saravia
December, 2013   

Image source: www.discovermagazine.com

The exponential rate of technological advances is leveraging the world of tomorrow into the world of today. The Human Genome Project paved the way for many advances in medicine and the biological sciences. Administering genetic tests enables the opportunity to know if a person is predisposed to an array of illnesses, ranging from cancer to cystic fibrosis and also has many forensic applications. Many pharmacological drugs have come forth from genomics. The National Institute of Health’s BRAIN Initiative is predicted to have similar, if not more significant effects. By mapping out the neural connections in the brain, scientist will better understand the depths of human cognition, perception and action which can generate practical applications in fields ranging from synthetic biology and computer science to marketing and advertising (See When Silicon Meets Biology). Just as paint and clay have facilitated artistic expression throughout the ages, the brain imaging and genomic sequencing technologies of today are creating endless roads of possibility. As a result, it is necessary to invest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, as well as their corresponding ethics, to ensure future generations will continue to effectively engage in and create progress. 

In a time when climate change, biotechnology, surveillance and military technology are of critical concern, scientist and non-scientist alike must have a well-rounded understanding of the sciences. In the United States, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, focusing on the nation’s need to further invest in STEM fields for socio-economic development, was recently proposed. Reports show that “more than 50 percent of economic growth in the U.S. [has been the] outcome of federally funded research resulting in new innovations” during the past decade (See Inside Indiana Business). With this in mind, funding scientific literacy is a necessary step to drive social change. Media and media technology are the vehicle of communication and progress, driving the function of society, and should be used to spread scientific literacy. STEM disciplines should be emphasized academically, and promoted as enthusiastically as the arts and entertainment to appeal to the public, to ultimately generate practical solutions. STEM topics must spread like memes, while retaining the constructive, life-forming properties of genes. Science must propagate like propaganda.

Friday
Nov292013

The Odd Couple: Can Bioengineering Protect Nature?

Jessica Griggs
New Scientist, 10 December 2013 

Credit: Paul Wearing

Would Like To Meet: Someone with verve and youthful optimism; a risk-taker who believes they can change the world for the better. Me? A little jaded, I suppose. Age? Oh, I wouldn't like to say, but old enough to have been burned a few times.
And so a blind date was arranged. Both parties were unsure what to expect yet sufficiently intrigued to show up. For a few days in April, a group of conservationists and a group of synthetic biologists sat down together for the first time at the University of Cambridge. The idea was to get to know each other a little better and see if techniques from synthetic biology could help solve some of the most intractable problems that conservationists have been wrestling with for decades.
It was a bold idea. You could hardly find two more ill-matched scientific disciplines. Synthetic ...

Read more... 

Thursday
Nov282013

Got Science? Champions Who Stood Up for Science in 2013 

Seth Shulman
Live Science, Union of Concerned Scientists, December 10, 2013
From finding life elsewhere in the universe to developing intelligent machines, the future offers some startling possibilities. Credit: Bionic technology photo via ShutterstockWith Congressional partisanship reaching unprecedented levels and science too frequently under attack from a vocal minority, it's all the more vital to stand up for the basic idea that choices should be informed by the best evidence and data available. That means insisting that kids are taught solid science unfettered by political or religious doctrine, that people face up to what's actually known about the climate realities we confront, and that we draw a bright line to differentiate science-based fact from politically motivated disinformation.

This year, Got Science? is recognizing six individuals who had the courage to stand up for science in 2013. Read more...

Sunday
Sep012013

Too Much Information, So Little Understanding

Karina Saravia
September 1st, 2013

Explaining and understanding is a fundamental goal of science. Modern tools and technologies make worlds of information and explanations readily available. Ironically, it appears that the public’s level of understanding is falling behind.

In 1982, polls showed that 44 percent of Americans believed God had created human beings in their present form. Thirty years later, the fraction of the population who are creationists is 46 percent. In 1989, when “climate change” had just entered the public lexicon, 63 percent of Americans understood it was a problem. Almost 25 years later, that proportion is actually a bit lower, at 58 percent.” (see Frank)

Is there too much information to choose from? Is the flood of information affecting the ability synthesize and comprehend it? Are people in denial? Or are people merely losing trust in science?

With the Internet, wikis and social media sites, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between fact and speculation. What is actually science and what is pseudoscience? The underlying problem lies in the public’s failure to distinguish the two. While real science characteristically utilizes empiricism and the scientific method to disprove, pseudoscience allures with subjectivism (See Smith). After all, the endless mediums of hyperbolic communication and the emerging religiosity of ‘scientism’ lend themselves for this kind of misdirection (See Bastasch; Haeder). Considering the rate of progress and development in society, this kind of miscommunication is unacceptable. The public needs to be informed. The people need to understand (See Beauchamp; Marshall).

Science is not all-powerful. It does not have all the answers. It does not address the moral and ethical topics in the analytical way the humanities can. However, scientific advances have brought us into this modern premise and must be used to at least determine the right questions. 

Sunday
Sep012013

Welcome to the Age of Denial

Adam Frank
NYtimes, August 21, 2013

IN 1982, polls showed that 44 percent of Americans believed God had created human beings in their present form. Thirty years later, the fraction of the population who are creationists is 46 percent.

In 1989, when “climate change” had just entered the public lexicon, 63 percent of Americans understood it was a problem. Almost 25 years later, that proportion is actually a bit lower, at 58 percent.

....Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact.

Thus, even as our day-to-day experiences have become dependent on technological progress, many of our leaders have abandoned the postwar bargain in favor of what the scientist Michael Mann calls the “scientization of politics.”   Read more...

Sunday
Sep012013

EPA Releases New Climate Change Video Series 

Molly Hooven
EPA Newsroom, August 26th, 2013

The Series Supports President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and Highlights Benefits of Reducing Energy Consumption

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a new series of short public service videos on climate change. The videos cover a range of topics related to climate change, including its causes and impacts, actions Americans can take to reduce their impact, and the benefits to the economy of addressing climate change. The new video series supports the President’s Climate Action Plan by encouraging American families to reduce the amount of energy they consume, cutting down on their utility bills and protecting people’s health. Watch the video series and read more...

Sunday
Sep012013

MIT Professor: Global Warming is A ‘Religion’

Michael Bastasch
The Daily Caller, August 8th, 2013 

Throughout history, governments have twisted science to suit a political agenda. Global warming is no different, according to Dr. Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Global climate alarmism has been costly to society, and it has the potential to be vastly more costly. It has also been damaging to science, as scientists adjust both data and even theory to accommodate politically correct positions,” writes Lindzen in the fall 2013 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

According to Lindzen, scientists make essentially “meaningless” claims about certain phenomenon. Activists for certain causes take up claims made by scientists and politicians respond to the alarmism spread by activists by doling out more research funding. — creating an “Iron Triangle” of poor incentives. Read more...

Monday
Aug122013

When Silicon Meets Biology: Brain-Computer Interfaces and the Evolution of Man

Karina Saravia 
August, 2013 

Modern technological and scientific advances are directly influencing how human beings interact and engage with the world around them. In The United States, the Obama administration has prioritized an initiative to map the connections of the human brain, combining national (i.e., NIH, NSF, DARPA) and private sector (e.g., Allen Institute, HHMI, Kavli Foundation, Salk Institute) investments of approximately $200 million dollars (See BRAIN Initiative). This initiative will expectantly progress BCI (Brain-Computer Interface) technologies, eventually allowing people to control objects and communicate with one and other nearly telepathically.

Image source: venturebeat.comBCIs have already been implemented in the medical field by way of mechanical limb manipulation and disease biomarkers (See Konigsberg; Rogers). The new era of “cognitive computing” converges multimodal data, neuroscience and nano technology, supercomputer simulations, algorithms and programming models to influence communication, entertainment, consumerism, education and national defense (See Modha; Pelletier). Is Ray Kurzweil’s “singularity” near? Will humans become cyboric entities? Will all this serve to harm or benefit society in the future? 

Whether the singularity evolves from Sci-Fi into “actual” reality or not, it is undeniable that an integration of the synthetic and the organic is before us. Society has already assimilated the Internet, mobile devices and social media networks into everyday life. As active participants in our converging culture, it is our cvil responsibility to be educated and aware of the implications of these emerging technologies. It is necessary utilize the available tools and resources to build a worthy socio-techno ecology. We must develop the democratic potential of this networked society and participate in creating the world we want before it becomes a Skynet-like Hollywood horror. 

Monday
Aug122013

Intelligent Neural Dust Embedded in the Brain Could Be the Ultimate Brain-Computer Interface

Neurogadget.com, July 18, 2013

A major hurdle in brain-computer interfaces is the lack of an implantable neural interface system that remains viable for a lifetime. This paper explores the fundamental system design trade-offs and ultimate size, power, and bandwidth scaling limits of neural recording systems.

A recent theoretical paper has described a system concept termed ‘neural dust’- a miniaturized low power system to support brain–computer interfaces (BCI) and monitor the brain from inside. Embedded in the brain, the intelligent dust particles could form an entirely new form of BCI, say Berkeley Engineering researchers.

 A major hurdle in brain-computer interfaces is the lack of an implantable neural interface system that remains viable for a lifetime. This paper explores the fundamental system design trade-offs and ultimate size, power, and bandwidth scaling limits of neural recording systems. Read more…

Monday
Aug122013

Harvard Creates Brain-to-Brain Interface, Allows Humans to Control Other Animals with Thoughts Alone

Sebastian Anthony
ExtremeTech, July 31, 2013

Researchers at Harvard University have created the first noninvasive brain-to-brain interface (BBI) between a human… and a rat. Simply by thinking the appropriate thought, the BBI allows the human to control the rat’s tail. This is one of the most important steps towards BBIs that allow for telepathic links between two or more humans — which is a good thing in the case of friends and family, but terrifying if you stop to think about the nefarious possibilities of a fascist dictatorship with mind control tech.

In recent years there have been huge advances in the field of brain-computer interfaces, where your thoughts are detected and “understood” by a sensor attached to a computer, but relatively little work has been done in the opposite direction (computer-brain interfaces). This is because it’s one thing for a computer to work out what a human is thinking (by asking or observing their actions), but another thing entirely to inject new thoughts into a human brain. To put it bluntly, we have almost no idea of how thoughts are encoded by neurons in the brain. For now, the best we can do is create a computer-brain interface that stimulates a region of the brain that’s known to create a certain reaction — such as the specific part of the motor cortex that’s in charge of your fingers. We don’t have the power to move your fingers in a specific way — that would require knowing the brain’s encoding scheme — but we can make them jerk around. Read more…

Monday
Aug122013

How the World Will Change When Tech Can Read Your Mind

Amir Konigsberg
Venturebeat.com, July 29, 2013 

So many traffic accidents are the result of a driver’s cognitive state: Are we distracted? Texting? Shaving? Putting makeup on? New to the road? Have we drunk one too many? Are we enraged? Dead tired?

What if driving became a more sophisticated technological experience, so that instead of relying on just the motorist, the car itself would be behind the wheel?

Recent advances in brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are slowly turning this into a real possibility. BCIs enable direct communication between the brain and a computer, and thus, any external device. This is done using mechanisms that monitor our brain activity and translate this into language that computers can read. Read more… 

Saturday
Jul212012

Too Hot to Vote

Lisa Mattson
July, 2012 

Even though sweltering heat and record droughts have been rampant in the US this year, the upcoming political elections and its political contenders pay little heed to the notion of climate change.  If fact, which side of the aisle you sit on might suggest whether or not you think climate change is a reality, and your age may determine whether it’s even on your radar.

The climate change issue is global and nations are coming together to discuss its impact and look at potential measures to reduce its repercussions. Despite this,  relatively little action is being taken.  With US candidates primarily focused on the economy, insiders predict sparse comment or action on environmental issues.

The fact that political hopefuls haven't focused on climate change may not matter, given that US voter turnout has significantly decreased over the past 40 years. Motivating the electorate has continually been a factor in getting out the vote, but new experimentation exploring what really gets people to vote might make a difference, especially in close races.